DIGGING IN THE WORD: PHILIPPIANS 4

Philippians 4*

1: Paul returns to that heartfelt sentiment of unity which we have seen him employ earlier (2:16; 1 Thess 2:19-20), that he as leader is connected with the Christians.  They are his “joy and crown.”

2-3: An example of differing ideas is pointed out, and Paul encourages this to be resolved by finding unity in the Lord.  Paul asks others in the community to be of assistance in finding this resolution.  These people were obviously very helpful in the work of evangelization and Paul does not want these relationships to fall apart.  The ‘Book of Life’ is a symbolic image which has its origin all the way back in the book of Exodus.  This ‘book’ has the Lord’s list of the just, the holy, the saved. Psalms 69:29 has the psalmist asking that the wicked ones “be blotted from the book of life; not registered among the just!”  In fact, Our Saviour Himself teaches us that we should not rejoice over excellent works in this world, but rather “rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).  The Book of Revelation speaks of the ‘Book of Life’ repeatedly as the list of the just, those who will enjoy Heavenly bliss for all eternity with God.  In Revelation 3:5 Jesus shares the benefit of being written in the Book of Life: “The victor will thus be dressed in white, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name in the presence of my Father and of his angels.”  Other references in Revelation include 13:8; 17:8; 20:12; 20:15; 21:27.

4: We have looked at the theme of joy and rejoicing in this letter multiple times, so central is the theme for Paul.  The church should be a beacon of joy, but not some anonymous joy; this joy is to be found in the Lord.

5: Christians are not only to have kind thoughts or kind wishes for others, but the manifestation of kindness should be so pronounced that all would know.

6-7: God has promised that He will care for all those who are His own, but so often we allow circumstances to unsettle us.  There is a remedy for this: the peace of God.  Our Saviour has commanded us to be at peace, and has promised to send the Holy Spirit to give us this peace.  This peace is taken away when we forget or neglect the promise of God’s providential care for us.  Our nervousness, anxiety, fear, and many other obstacles take front stage; the peace of God which comes from trust is the remedy.  Our Lord pressed this point in the Sermon on the Mount when he counsels us not to worry (Mt 6:25, 31) or be anxious (Mt 6:28), reminding us that God, who cares for all the lesser creatures, cares for us even more fully.  Saint Peter invites to “cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7), which is the best way to process our anxiety.  Many people say “don’t worry” but what good is that?  Rather, tell God of all your worries, and He will minister to you.  How can we do this but to “persevere in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2).

8: Paul directs our attention to the ideals of life, the list is worth placing all together here; whatever is: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, any excellence, anything worthy of praise.  These grand virtues should be focused upon, sought after, pursued until acquired.

9: Once the Christian has begun his training in righteousness by adhering to the teaching of the Apostles, he should continue steadfastly on this course.  Paul even dares to counsel the Christians to imitate him, as he does in other places such as 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2: “Finally, brothers, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves and please God – and as you are conducting yourselves – you do so even more.  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.”

Peace is so central a fruit of the Spirit that it is singled out again and again as the governing factor and consoling accompaniment of a life in Christ.  Peace is seen as a central attribute of God here: “the God of peace” who will be with us.  Paul asks that the “God of peace” be with the Christians as he blesses them (Romans 15:33; also 1 Thes 5:23); the “God of peace will quickly crush Satan” under their feet (Romans 16:20); in fact, God “is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

10: Paul is sharing his pleasure that as he has labored greatly, so also there is a return from the people of gratitude to him.

11-13: Paul has been in many circumstances and has been able to continue his labor in the midst of all of them.  So we learn that our circumstances don’t inhibit us or determine us, but rather how we respond in the midst of them.  Paul lists some of these various circumstances, for example: “We go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands” (1 Corinthians 4:11-12); he has experienced “afflictions, hardships, constraints, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts” (2 Corinthians 4:4-5; also 2 Cor 11:26-27);

12: He shares the varied ways he has lived, in each of those ways finding the way forward and grasping the gift which comes from it.

13: Instead of the circumstances determining Paul’s operation, he places the secret in this: the empowerment of God which gives strength.  God had shared with Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness,” so Paul goes on to write that he “will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).  In the labor and the struggle of the ministry, Paul moves forward “in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Colossians 1:29).  Many people have found much comfort by memorizing this 13th verse of Philippians chapter 4.  It should be understood in this way: no matter what circumstances surround me, God will give me what grace I need to remain faithful to Him and to endure it.  It should not be taken to mean that a person can literally do anything, but the strength to endure the things God has given.

14: Paul, having finished his teaching, again shows his gratitude for the support of the people.

15: Philippi was not the first place in which Paul preached the Gospel, but the first in Europe.

16: The church of Philippi provides for Paul’s needs even when he was not with them. This teaches that we are to provide for the needs of the Church throughout the world, and not only in our local community.

17: Paul stresses that he is not the only one who receives because of their generosity, but rather that by their generosity they are growing in the Holy Spirit, building up treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).

18: Paul speaks of the support from the Philippians in language lifted from Old Testament religious rites, those ways in which the people would give of what they had to honor God.  Their giving to his needs is seen as a way to continue that sacrificial giving in the New Testament.  Noah had built an altar and offered burnt offerings to the Lord, and “the LORD smelled the sweet odor” (Genesis 8:20-21).  Moses and the people who left Egypt were instructed to “burn the entire ram on the altar, since it is a burnt offering, a sweet-smelling oblation to the LORD” (Exodus 29:18).  Our Saviour Himself has surpassed all of these offerings, as Paul writes in Ephesians 5: “Christ loved us and handed Himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.”  This giving of self is seen as normative for the Christian community, and we see it extended from the example of Our Saviour to the community in the letter to the Hebrews: Through Christ “let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.  Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have; God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind” (Hebrews 13:15-16).

19: In response to their support, Paul promises that God will continue to provide for them.

20: The letter is coming to an end, and so we see a doxology, directing all of our praise to God who is Father as well as Trinity.  This praise and glory is directed to God through Jesus Christ, as is seen in Romans 16:27: “To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

21: Final greetings are extended.

22: Paul shares that the Christians around where he is in captivity send their greetings as well.

23: Paul signs the letter with a liturgical presidential phrase.  This phrase has been preserved in the liturgy even until our own day, which shows how deeply committed the Church is to Biblical expressions in divine worship, handing on the Apostolic faith.  Paul extends the grace to their spirit, and we continue to respond in our day to our leaders: And with your spriit.

*[NOTE: This Bible exposition has not been edited, so there are misspellings, grammatical errors, and possibly verse citation errors.  Maybe one day someone will professionalize it.  I simply wanted to get the content to you. God bless!]

DIGGING IN THE WORD: PHILIPPIANS 3

Philippians 3*

1: It is not surprise that Paul returns to the theme of rejoicing.  No matter what has happened, is happening, or will happen, the Christians are to rejoice.

2-3: The dogs, evil workers, and mutilation have many references in scripture, and Paul may be including any or all of them here.  For sure, he is collecting their identities to clarify who the Christians are in contrast to them: The Christians are the true followers of the covenant of old (the covenant of circumcision with Abraham and the people of God), which has been superseded by the new covenant ratified in the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ.  The Jews are very careful to follow the Law to obtain righteousness. Paul is reminding the Christians that observance of the Law does not make one righteous; placing one’s claim to righteousness in the work of Jesus Christ is what must be done.  “I cannot save me; God has saved me, in Christ Jesus.”  This is the foundation of Christianity.

To return to the dogs and the evil workers, Psalm 22 includes them in a particular way.  Psalm 22 is at the height of pre-Christian prophecy of what was to occur in the life of Jesus.  A surface read proves that.  Verse 17 of that prophecy puts the dogs and evildoers together, and continues into verse 21: “Dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and my feet… deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the grip of the dog.” We can remember the words of our Divine Lord Himself, when He alludes to the people not of Israel: “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:27).  In the New Covenant, there are potential problems coming from any number of false ideas.  The Christians may be provoked to return to old covenant practices which negate the work of Jesus Christ; they may be influenced by Gentiles who refute the Cross of Jesus Christ; they may be tricked by false practices within Christianity, oftentimes by the spiritual elitists of the gnostic sorts.  The dangers come from any direction, but the remedy is clear: hold fast to the knowledge of the revelation from God of Jesus Christ as the author of the New Covenant, ratified in His Precious Blood.

4: Paul is now going to highlight all the things he has done so well from his former life in Judaism, so as to highlight his point that none of that matters when it comes to attaining right standing with God.  The Law is not the measure; The Cross of Jesus Christ is the measure.  Paul does this from time to time in his letters. Since the first converts to Christianity were Jews, there needed to be a teaching on how to transition from Judaism to this new way.  From time to time Paul employs a testimony to make sure that those converts who wanted to boast of their following of the Law know that their boasting has no place now.

5-6: Paul lists his Jewish pedigree.  He was circumcised on the right day, he is not a convert to the race, he knows his tribe, both parents Hebrews themselves, and he was rigorous with the Pharisees.  All of this would indicate the purity of his upbringing, and he adds his own claim of following the law carefully.

7: Paul’s pedigree has been set aside, because he is not trying to gain righteousness by who he is or what he has done.  Rather, Jesus Christ is his focus now, not himself.  Our Lord Himself spoke of this kind of change in his parables: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44).  Paul knew that to inherit this new treasure, he had to let go of what he had known or possessed up to then.

8: A most precious passage of the New Testament writings: “I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Commit Philippians 4:8 to memory and let it take root in your mind, heart, and soul.

8-11: Paul continues to inform the Jewish converts that the law no longer should be the measure for religious conduct.  Rather, he focuses on these things: faith in Jesus Christ; knowing the power of His resurrection; sharing in His sufferings.  The focus is completely on Jesus as the source and power for attaining eternal life.  The law used to be the measure; it is no longer the measure: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, through testified to by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  For there is no distinction; all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.  They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an expiation…” (Romans 3:21-25).

10: Christians participate in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, for sure by their own death they will awaken to eternal life.  But even in this life, the Christian mystically participates in the death and resurrection of Jesus. “Or are you unaware that we who are baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).  On the theme of suffering with Christ, Paul sets it up as a preparation to share in the glorification of Christ: “we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:16-17).  Paul goes so far in this identification with Christ that he says: “From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body” (Galatians 6:17).

12-13a: Paul is aware of his present relationship with Christ Jesus, but knows that he cannot presume that ‘yesterday’ is good enough.  Each day the Christian must strive to move forward.  You have heard the saying: “If you are not going forward, you are going backward.”  Something like this is at work here.  There is more, and the Christian must continue, must abide, must keep on.  We have not yet been perfected, so today is our opportunity to become more like Our Lord.  The idea of pressing forward (or else failing) is seen in many of Paul’s letters, oftentimes with the language of competition or athletic activity.  Paul writes to Timothy: “Compete well for the faith.  Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses,” and to accumulate “as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life.” (1 Timothy 6:12, 19).  Paul writes of himself: “I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.  No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified,” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27).  Nearing the end of life, Paul concludes: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

13b-14: It is the Christian way to release yesterday and things gone by and enter into the mercies which are new every morning.  The goal is complete configuration to Jesus and possession of Heaven, gained by daily fidelity.  The athletic theme in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 serves well here: “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win.  Every athlete exercises disciple in every way.  They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.”

15-16: Paul is highlighting the fact that nobody is as of yet perfect, but that we all must continue forward.  If someone thinks that they are perfect, God will help them see the error of there thoughts.  They are on the right path; therefore, press on.

17: Paul was aware that his life was to become a model of this new way of life found in Christ Jesus, one which was zealous, singlehearted, pure (with regards to faith) and clearly distinguished from false teachers.  Paul says to be an imitator of him numerous times (1 Corinthians 4:16, 1 Corinthians 11:1), imitators of the leaders in other cases: “you became imitators of us and of the Lord… so that you became a model for all the believers” (1 Thessalonians 1:6,7).  Saint Peter asks the leaders the same: “Be examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3).

18-19: There are countless ways to be an enemy of the Cross of Christ.  This case seems to be those who would consider themselves Christians, but are living a very worldly and indulgent life, even sinful.  Paul warns of these ‘fleshy’ people in Romans 8:5-6: “For those who live according to the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit with the things for the spirit.  The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the spirit is life and peace.” These same people can become troublemakers, establishing factions which Paul warns of: “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who create dissensions and obstacles, in opposition to the teaching that your learned; avoid them.  For such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the innocent” (Romans 16:17-18).  Others who are enemies of the Cross of Christ are Gentiles and Jews: “We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).

20-21: Earth is a valley of tears, a place of pilgrimage, a practice or dress rehearsal, an exile, a stepping stone.  Heaven is the goal.  “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7). Paul continues in Ephesians 2:19: “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God.”  So we are to lift our thoughts, hearts, and desires to our true homeland: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).  We will be transformed into our heavenly body, free of every defect imaginable, and filled with every perfection pleasing to God.  “We groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies”; “Those he justified he also glorified”; “it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.  If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one”; “All of us, gazing with unveiled faces on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (Romans 8:23, 30; 1 Corinthians 15:44; 2 Corinthians 3:18).  Two places are not included here because they are lengthy, but worthy: 1 Corinthians 15:42-57 and 2 Corinthians 5:1-5.

*[NOTE: This Bible exposition has not been edited, so there are misspellings, grammatical errors, and possibly verse citation errors.  Maybe one day someone will professionalize it.  I simply wanted to get the content to you. God bless!]

Jesus Christ is King!

Check out this sound clip taken from a sermon by Dr. S.M. Lockridge:

“He supplies strength to the weak. He’s available for the tempted and the tried. … He defends the feeble. He serves the unfortunate.”

“Death couldn’t handle him and grave couldn’t hold him!”

Jesus must reign in our hearts! He is our only hope against the devil! Give him complete authority over your life. Place him on the throne of your heart! Call upon him at every moment of trial, give him glory in every moment of joy, and thank him for the life he has given you. Imitate his righteousness by reaching out in love to the poor, the imprisoned, the hungry, the homeless, and the unfortunate among us. Imitate his mercy by forgiving all who have sinned against you.

See how he humbled himself by placing aside his crown of jewels for a crown of thorns. See how he stepped down from his glorious throne in Heaven to be hung on the Cross as a criminal, all so that we may enter into his Heavenly Kingdom at the time of our passing from this life to the next. Without this King, our lives are left to be empty of meaning and purpose. Without this King, we will never know true peace and joy. Without this King, we will not know what it means to truly live:

“I came that they might have life, and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10)

That’s my king!

Prayer Workshop: Spiritual Rest

Silent Prayer

For an explanation of the Prayer Workshop, click here.

(I’ve mentioned this topic before, as you can see here, but I’ll mention it again because it is very important.)

Read what our teacher has to say about this:

This is a matter…to which I am very anxious to win your attention, for in it lies one of the surest means of spiritual progress.

At various points during the day, stop what you are doing and place yourself in the Presence of God. Of course, he is always with you and you with him, but we so easily forget this fact. Our lives are so busy with work, chores, technology, family, friends, etc. and our minds are too easily distracted from recalling our resolutions made during our Morning Prayer. That is why this phase of the Prayer Workshop is so important. We must strive always to remember the Ultimate goal, which is eternal life in Heaven.

When you stop what you are doing and recall the Lord’s Presence, recall also that he breathes life into you and looks upon you with incomparable love at every moment. Close your eyes and rest in his embrace. Perhaps you may go to Calvary and see him looking with love upon you from the Cross as he dies for your salvation. Or perhaps you may go to the stable in Bethlehem and behold the Baby who has come to save you from eternal damnation. Or perhaps still you may see him ascending into Heaven so that he may send the Holy Spirit to dwell in your soul.

Find rest in these places, even while you are in the middle of your most busy day, or while you are in such a huge crowd that no rest seems possible. Pray these words (or something like them):

You, Lord, are my refuge, my castle, my stay, my shelter in the storm and in the heat of the day. Let me remain in your presence this entire day. Give me grace to recall your love for me and for all of your people. Give me unfailing rest.

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